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Texas' COVID-19 order forces winery to close its Grapevine tasting room

Texas' COVID-19 order forces winery to close Grapevine tasting room

Umbra Winery
They could always be counted on for a free sample. Umbra

Texas winemaker Umbra Winery & Market has closed its tasting room in Grapevine, and is consolidating its operations at its vineyard in Springtown, 50 miles northwest of Dallas.

The winery attributed the closure to COVID-19 as well as the state's intractable stance on tasting rooms, which it said put wineries "in a chokehold."

"As you are likely aware, Texas Governor Abbott and the TABC have prohibited wineries from serving onsite for four+ months now," their statement says. "Tasting rooms are classified as bars, and thus prohibited from onsite consumption during this COVID19 pandemic, despite pleadings from the industry that tasting rooms are not bars."

Wine tasting rooms were lumped in with bars by Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued an order in late June shuttering any business that earns 51 percent or more from alcohol sales, while restaurants, theme parks, and bowling alleys have been allowed to stay open with limited occupancy.

Wineries, breweries, and distilleries have argued that they're tourism industry businesses, not bars, with ample spacing and are usually closed before dinnertime.

"Turning away customers who come to Grapevine to try the wines and experience what Texas has to offer despite implementing all the protocols to ensure a safe visit has been nothing short of frustrating," Umbra's statement said. "The COVID shutdown has left Umbra with no sensible choice but to move all its operations to its headquarters in Springtown."

Umbra Winery at La Buena Vida Vineyards is the third oldest vineyard in Texas. They opened their Grapevine tasting room at 415 S. Main St. in 2014, and could always be counted on for a sample. Their lineup of wines included reds and whites such as Viognier, with a specialty in mead.

They also offered snacks such as flatbreads, hummus and Mediterranean plates with pita bread toasts, cheese and nut trays, bruschetta and toasts, and desserts such as chocolate cake with strawberries.

Co-owner John Wilson calls their tenure in Grapevine "a blur of festivals, trails, private events, parades, 40 days of Christmas, live music, fun wine-based cocktail creations, champagne tastings, food pairing events, painting/floral classes, art showings, NYE celebrations, and much much more," with "wonderful staff members and awesome customers."

"It's been a wild and amazing adventure since Day 1 and we will all cherish the people and memories made there," Wilson says.

Co-owner Debbie Ray-Wilson says they'll focus all their efforts on their Springtown venue, which is home to a wedding venue, cottage rentals, and estate barrel room. They've received awards as a wedding venue and as a host on Airbnb.

The winery will continue to operate and invites patrons to visit for an afternoon or weekend getaway.

"There is so much possibility here on our 50 acres and we already have some new initiatives in mind," Ray-Wilson says. "Love thrives even in the time of COVID and we are very much enjoying celebrating beginnings for so many couples as well as other milestone celebrations. Making memories and creating a wonderful customer experience is what we’ve always been about and we can definitely do that here."